Changing policies and leadership at public pension funds – which wield trillions of dollars of funds across the country – also holds significant opportunities to build new capital channels. But change has been slow, according to the New America Alliance study. "Latino majority-owned institutions continue to struggle to find adequate access to public and private pension funds," the study notes. Still, in recent years, pension funds around the country – including in Arizona, New Mexico, and Illinois – have begun adding Hispanic professionals to their management.
Robert Aguallo , executive director of the more than $6-billion L.A. City Employee Retirement System, said pension funds are relatively unknown sources of capital. He added, "We realize now that public funds really have a much deeper, more significant impact on our community." Before Mr. Aguallo's move last year to his current position, he was a 14-year veteran of the California Public Employees Retirement System, the nation's largest public pension fund, with assets of about $130 billion.
Mr. Aguallo noted that the governance revolution that shook Corporate America in the 1990s also led to scrutiny of CalPERS' operations, which ultimately led the fund to adopt initiatives and programs to reflect wider diversity in all of its practices.
"My fear is there's going to be a great betrayal as millions of Latinos – young, attractive, smart Latinos who are graduating. See there is a tremendous abyss between the [positive demographic] numbers and access to entrepreneurship." said George Muñoz, co-founder and president of Muñoz Investment Banking Group.
"There's policy, there's leadership, and there's also legislative oversight – all came together at the right time," Mr. Aguallo said. "But I think we've lost some momentum. We need to share our expertise in California with other states' legislatures to continue discussion on what we can do as CEOs to assist, so that access to capital becomes a reality for our community."
"We need to be at the table, looking at the NAICs, educating investors and entrepreneurs so we can actually make this happen," said Melinda Guzman-Moore , partner in Goldsberry, Freeman, Guzman & Ditora LLP, and chairwoman of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Momentum on a comprehensive scale is also something that VOY Network's Fernando Espuelas espoused. "We need to create a national platform that creates a vehicle and incentivizes entrepreneurs to make them into companies," Mr. Espuelas said. "How do we get that richness into the marketplace and have it cascade down? I think there are models and we need to not just talk about them, but implement them."
Carlos Signoret (left), of Hispania Capital Partners, and Fernando Espuelas, of VOY Network, were among attendees. "People have to think in not an incremental fashion, but in a revolutionary fashion," Mr. Espeulas said of developing solutions to the capital-access issue.
Hispanic Business plans to review such models as we continue examining middle-market finance as a major theme for the rest of 2004 and into 2005. "It's a time of hope and promise," said Hispanic Business Editor and Publisher
Jesús Chavarría, "but the agenda remains complicated and challenging."
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